H.E. Mr. Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President, European Commission (Video Message from European Commission in Brussels)

Western Balkans can have a bright future by integrating more at a regional level with the EU

“I am very pleased to have this chance to address you at the Sarajevo Business Forum. Unfortunately, I cannot be with you today because I am also opening the European Business Summit here in Brussels. But, doing business in Europe is all about transcending borders. I know how important your event is in bringing together the Western Balkans business community with international investors so I was very pleased to have the chance to connect with you.

As you know, economic recovery is picking up in the European Union. This is also good news

for your region as our economies are closely integrated through trade and investment. Growth in Western Balkans, is forecasted to reach 3.2% in 2017 and 3.5% in 2018. Of course, there is more to be done

to boost investment and secure sustainable growth for our citizens. In the EU, our European Fund for strategic investment, EFSI, is well on track to deliver 315 billion euros of additional investments that we planned. But even more important than the EFSI is the work we are doing to improve our advisory services, bringing together investors and project promoters and improve the business environment.

We follow a similar approach in the Western Balkans. Over the past years, through our investment facility we have allocated 1.3 billion euros to 139 projects in the fields of transport, energy, environment and social sector leveraging 13.5 billion euros in investment. But the real impact on growth and jobs will come from further advancing regional economic integration. We support this politically as an important milestone on the way to accession but also with our financial assistance geared to help companies reap the benefits.

We look forward to the Trieste Western Balkans Summit in July when regional leaders will confirm their wish to move towards a regional economic area and announce concrete steps to be taken in the coming years. This will finally deliver on your motto for a single investment destination, "one region, one economy." I have just returned from the "One Belt, One Road" summit in Beijing where there is lots of interest in your region. It is very important that we look beyond the continent we share and recognize the challenges and opportunities that are emerging globally.

This is the focus of the reflection paper we issued a few days ago on harnessing globalization. I believe the Western Balkans can have a bright future by integrating more at a regional level with the EU and globally. This requires sustained efforts by all actors, both governments and the private sector.

I am confident that this event with contribute to this objective and create more opportunities for the peoples of the regions to improve their lives. I wish you good luck with your discussions and thank you for your attention.”